February 1, 2015

By Marty Liboff

YOU ARE ALL UNDER ARREST!! John Haag started our beloved Beachhead newspaper in 1968. He had run the legendary Venice West Cafe at 7 Dudley Ave. in Venice from 1962 to 1966 with his wonderful wife Anna. Believe it or not, you could be arrested back then just for reading a poem with a 4 letter word or displaying a painting with a naked woman! No matter that our museums are full of naked Roman statues and Ruben’s paintings of large nude women – back then the moral police could harass and arrest you for this!
In the mid 1950s the North Beach in San Francisco and Greenwich Village in New York had like a crazy new movement called the Beats. Man, like people would like write poetry and sometimes beat like cool bongo drums. Jazz music, beards, drugs, sandals, and sex were all part of the beatnick counter-culture. They believed that each of us has his/her inner artist that can come out in painting, poetry, dance, music, ceramics, photography, writing and sculpture. They invented their own hip lingo. Dig it man, it’s far out! Many had come from affluent families and had good educations but had rebelled against the excess consumerism that Americans were sold into after WWII and the Korean wars. They thought of themselves as cool hip cats and everyone else wearing suits and slaving for the almighty dollar were squares.
The Venice West Cafe Expresso was started in 1957 by the bearded and man like crazy Beat poet Stuart Perkoff. Another older writer and poet, Lawrence Lipton had moved to Venice and had successful poetry readings at his house and other homes around Venice. Alan Ginsberg, Anais Nin and other famous poets of the day had come there. Lawrence had become the shaman of the new Venice West Beats and a mentor to the younger Stuart. Lawrence thought maybe he could start a Beat movement in our like cool town by the sea. Venice was a nice, but run down mostly Jewish neighborhood. The rents were cheap and a few artists already lived in the many turn of the century cottages and cheap hotels, some that were built by our town’s founder Abbot Kinney. Stuart Perkoff saw how successful Lawrence Lipton’s Beat poetry sessions were and thought a coffee shop with poetry and maybe some jazz and paintings by new Beat artists would be fun. He borrowed some “bread” otherwise known as a few bucks from his parents and rented the little store at 7 Dudley Ave. and turned it into a coffee shop. Little did he know such a seemingly innocent venture would cause a moral fire storm!
Stuart proclaimed, “Men & women of Venice, lovers, children, holy citizens of the heavenly city, all around you there is the sweet air of love!” The cafe opened and became a family hangout for the artists of Venice and Perkoff”s kids and pals. It had bare brick walls that were decorated with new art and poetic sayings. A mixed lot of old tables and chairs filled the room. There was an old fridge and stove behind a counter and you felt you were sitting in Stuart’s living room or his pad. There was a chess set and usually a conga drum. Splattered on one wall was the saying, “Art is love is God”. There were only a couple dozen or so regular Beats around Venice and how could they drink enough coffee and sandwiches to keep it going? Many of the Venice regulars like had no bread or were broke anyway. Right away the city came down on these beatniks with any health violation they could think of. Poor Stuart was disillusioned by a lack of paying customers and the city’s harassment and sold the business in 1959 for $200 to John Kenevan.
Lawrence Lipton and others of the hip Beat movement had gone on radio and TV. Lawrence declared that, “Venice West is to Los Angeles what the Left Bank once was to Paris!” Books were being written about the Beats like Lipton’s very popular book, “The Holy Barbarians”. His book and talks sometimes mentioned the Venice West Cafe. Soon the cafe was booming with tourists and would-be beatniks. Tourists came with cameras. Tourists walked the Ocean Front Walk searching for someone that might look like “Maynard G. Krebs”, the funny beatnik on the “Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” TV show, so they could take their picture. TV and radio reporters came to show these wild “barbarians”. Beatniks were suddenly so popular that Stuart Perkoff even got on the Groucho Marx TV show, “You Bet Your Life”!
Down near Windward Ave. Eric “Big Daddy” Nord rented an old Abbot Kinney building on the Ocean Front and called it the Gas House. “But it’s alright now, in fact it’s a gas!” It was a haven for the beatniks and their art and music. “Big Daddy” was a bearded giant daddy-o at 6 foot 8 inches and up to 400 pounds! He left the San Francisco beatnik scene after failing with a Beat joint there and tried his luck in Venice. Suddenly there were two cool Beat hangouts in Venice.
Almost immediately some local realtors and developers tried to rally the square community to close them down and throw these worthless bums out. They got our local bureaucrats and the LAPD to join in the harassment. They complained about weird people, drugs and noisy music. They screamed that beatniks were lowering property values on the beach. Sound familiar today? They had undercover agents hang out at the cafe and Gas House and they reported nudity and drinking. Some ranted about immorality like Black men kissing White women! The police declared that you needed an entertainment license to read a poem and closed them down. The health department came up with any excuse to shut them down. Lawyers for the Beats kept the Gas House open for a while but they couldn’t have poetry shows or allow the beatniks to live there anymore. In 1963 the city forced the closure and demolition of the Gas House and the beautiful old Saint Marks Hotel next door. The city began condemning many of the old buildings around Windward Ave. They figured if they demolish the cheap housing then these “undesirables” will have to go away. “Big Daddy” returned to San Francisco.
In around 1960 a young, good looking John Haag and his beautiful wife Anna came to Venice. He wanted to be a Venice West poet. John was born in 1930 in N.Y. He was a well educated Harvard man. Anna was born in 1937 in Italy. In the early 1960s they rented a small space next door to the cafe and called it the Venice Music and Arts Center. They figured this tiny spot would have music, art and poetry. They became activists in several civil rights groups. In 1962 they took over the Venice West Cafe next door from John Kenevan. Kenevan, like Perkoff, had been constantly picked on by the police, the health department, city hall and some prudish neighbors. Kenevan was happy to turn the cafe over to John and Anna Haag.
In 1964 John Haag sounded a cowbell in the cafe and a poet came up and read a poem. Immediately four plain-clothed vice officers planted in the audience and at least four more regular cops arrested John for entertainment without a police permit. Soon after our Venice city councilman tried to outlaw playing drums along the public beach. Mayor Yorty talked about bulldozing all of Venice and starting over!
John and Anna didn’t go down without a fight. They got lawyers and kept having poetry. The city council went ahead and outlawed drums on the beach at that time and continued to harass John and other beatniks. My mother ran a bakery in the Cadillac Hotel a few feet away and I hung out by the cafe often. I remember well one incident where John was arrested and his wife Anna began screeching like a mad lioness at the cops! She and John were both awesome people. We thought of them as the King and Queen of Venice! John began orchestrating demonstrations at city hall. He got radio and TV to cover some of the proceedings.
I used to go and hang out sometimes at the cafe. John and Anna were good friends with my mom, Ruthie in the bakery. I was 14 ½ when they took over the cafe. After they opened I liked to go and read the magazines and books. They put some free newspapers by the door and there were reading copies of books and magazines by the window. There were new books and magazines by the counter. I loved to look through them for cartoons but John would get mad at me for soiling his new books. “Go read the free books!” he would tell me. I would always tell him I had already looked at all the free stuff. He knew I wasn’t going to buy anything! Maybe once I bought a magazine? A cheap one…
Anna ran the cafe. She took food orders, made coffee and sandwiches, served the food and ran the cash register. When it was busy she had another worker help. John would shmooz with the Beats and customers. Sometimes he would get up and read his newest poem. They would often have jazz playing on their stereo or radio in the back while you sat on a junky chair or old couch writing your newest poem. The music of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie “Bird” and Mingus were playing in the background while people with berets and goatees sat and sipped coffee. John and Anna and many of the Beats smoked cigarettes in those days and smoke wafted about the room. Most smoked the sacred herb but they usually did that outside in a pagoda or on the sand for fear of the cops. Back then pot was a serious offense. Usually they were opened from dusk to morning. When the sun began to fall the Beat werewolves with bushy beards would begin to like howl their poems to the moon. Usually you would go up to Anna or John and tell them you had a poem and they would ring a bell and you would “blow” your thing. I really loved Anna like a second mom. John and Anna knew me as “Ruthie’s son”. I’d love to go back there now…
Some summer weekend nights when I went to the cafe the place was packed. There were wild eyed bearded men and dancing women even outside. There was the smell of funny cigarettes in the air. Sometimes it was so crowded you couldn’t get in. I remember a couple nights I just stood by the door to try and listen to the poets or a folk singer. I heard that a young unknown poet by the name of Jim Morrison used to come there and listen to poetry. Many times there was someone playing a drum with the poetry. Tamboo the conga drummer had used to be a regular.
In 1966 the owner of the property who hated commies tried to evict John and Anna. Once again they tried to rally support for their cafe. John and Anna had been battling in the courts and from jail and at city hall since they opened the first day! After a dirty battle in court by the owner, the judge gave the Venice West Cafe a temporary stay. However, John and Anna had enough. John had originally come to Venice to be a poet, not to be involved in courts, demonstrations and jail. Sadly, soon after the court battle they gave it up. Business had slumped also. Several bigger and prettier clubs had opened around L.A. The times were also a changing. The beatnik hipsters were transforming into hippies. Jazz and folk music was eclipsed by rock music. Reading poetry wasn’t as cool anymore as listening to rock ‘n’ roll. Jim Morrison began putting his poems to rock music instead of just bongo drums. His music became his poetry.
The civil rights movement in the early 1960s had gotten many people organized politically to fight racism in our country. The war in Vietnam had begun to stir anti-war sentiment. John Haag had written poems even in the late 1950s that were against war. The war began to have more and more killings on both sides, and John and Anna began to put more of their energy into the growing anti-war movement. Their experiences with city hall and the cops while running the cafe made them even more politically aware. He traveled up north to Washington State and a local group called the Peace and Freedom Party was supporting local anti-war candidates from both the Democrats and Republicans. He dreamed of a real Peace and Freedom Party that would have its own candidates. He returned to Venice and began to organize a new political party with his local pals. He liked the name Peace and Freedom Party and it won out over several other names. So the real Peace and Freedom Party was born in Venice in 1967. They had a terrible time getting the party on the ballot because both Democrats and Republicans didn’t want another political party to take away their votes. John and his new group needed 68,000 people to register in the new party. This meant you had to change your party affiliation from Democrat or Republican to Peace and Freedom. They had to battle all sorts of obstacles. With plenty of hard work they got 105,000 people to register to the new Peace and Freedom Party. He had stopped me walking on the boardwalk many a time to bug me to help him get signatures or to go to some rally or demonstration. I went once or twice but I usually tried to think up some excuse! I wasn’t very political. I spent all my spare time playing basketball. I told John on their first try with their own candidates that he should run for President. He told me that nobody outside Venice knows him and they needed someone with name recognition. He said maybe he might run at some later time and he did run for President later on. The Peace and Freedom Party ran Eldridge Cleaver who was well known at the time. During the war years the new party got quite a few votes. More recently, in 2012 they ran the comedienne Roseanne Barr for President.
John thought they needed a voice for the new party and their anti-war ideals. They thought of having a radio or TV show, but John figured they could start with a local newspaper. In 1968 the Free Venice Beachhead began. “This paper is a poem” was his idea to have poetry, art and political and local news that is ignored or misreported in the other newspapers. When asked what “Beachhead” meant John said, “It’s a military term describing the initial phase of an invasion. But of course I had in mind that we were all beach heads!” He didn’t want to run the paper himself and thought a collective of people who care could run it. He worked on the first couple of issues, but he was spending more and more time on the Peace and Freedom Party. John reminisced about the Beachhead, “ Of course it was all volunteer. Nobody got paid or anything. The personnel in the collective changed from time to time, and sometimes fairly rapidly, but there were always people to come in and put the paper out. I think it was some kind of miracle!” He tried to let the collective run things on the Beachhead. I wanted to be a cartoonist and had done some cartoons in college newspapers. The Beachhead printed a few of my cartoons in 1978 and ‘79. At one point some new collective members began editing my cartoons and I went to whine to John. He told me that the collective decides on the content and he didn’t want to interfere, although he enjoyed my cartoons. I quit, but later I still occasionally submitted a cartoon. Here I am again writing for the Beachhead! I feel I owe John and Anna much for their contributions to Venice. John’s poems and the poets at the coffee house had inspired me and still inspire me now!
Everyone was devastated in Venice when our King and Queen, John and Anna broke up. This was a major tragedy because together they were such a powerful force. Anna once said, “I might love a man, but I love Venice more!” John and Anna continued to work on politics and civil rights until they passed away. John still wrote poems until the end. Anna died in 2003 and John in 2006. Today the Peace and Freedom Party continues the fight against wars. Despite many not believing our Beachhead would ever work, our paper still continues on while most newspapers of that era are long gone. Let us hope and pray our Beachhead will go on forever… Well all you groovy chicks and hip cats, I blew my like crazy thing! It’s time for me to cut out and split until the next cool time. Far out man, ya dig it?

A Short Beat Glossary:
“BLOW” To sound off either with music, poems or words.
“BREAD” Money.
“CAT” A sexy cool male beatnik.
“CHICK” The male beatnik’s Beat girlfriend or any cute gal.
“COOL” Anything you like a lot is cool; cool jazz, cool painting…
“CRAZY” Anything that is kind of wild or new
“CUT OUT” To take one’s leave. To leave.
“DIG” To understand.
“FAR OUT” It really sends you or impresses you. Also, way out.
“GAS” The best, or greatest of times.
“GROOVE OR GROOVY” With it. In the (record) groove. Playing with the beat. Something nice.
“HEAD” Someone smart and also someone who smoked pot.
“HIP” To know. Knowledgeable. In the new style.
“JOINT” A place like a cafe. Also a marijuana cigarette.
“LIKE” To make sense of. Comparative reality.
“MAN” Giving greater emphasis to. Also the police, “The Man”.
“PAD” Your apartment or home.
“SPLIT” To leave or go.
“SQUARE” A conformist to society and culture who can’t drop his suit and tie.
“SWING” Uninhibited. Able to swing with music.

Beachhead, Dec.2003 article by John Haag. ‘Venice West’, 1991 by John Maynard. ‘John Haag Speaks’,YouTube, 2002, posted by Jim Smith. ‘Bohemians’, 2000 by Elizabeth Wilson. ‘Holy Barbarians’,1959 by Lawrence Lipton. Beachhead interview of John Haig, 2002 by Suzy Williams. ‘Venice California Coney Island of the Pacific’, by Jeffrey Stanton. Various -Wikipedia, etc.

This Paper is a Poem
By Marty Liboff

This paper is a poem
We laugh and cry
In joy and sadness
We recite, read and sing
Poems of the world gone wrong
Poems of the world gone right
Beauty and hell
Good and bad times
The changes, the years
The tears, the fears
The misery of the masses
The pain and happiness of an individual
Mankind cursed by society
Money mad developers and corporations
Banks, police, judges
Picking on the poor and helpless
And also the blessings…
The blessings of our Mother Earth
The beauty of a seagull flying by
And the simple kindness of good souls
We laugh and lament
To the passings and new births and new beginnings
The Muses recite and sing to us
The 9 Sisters tell us everything
Mysteries revealed
In adversity we learn and gain strength
For hope for a better future
A poem of life
A song we sing
Sing, sing your song
Of liberty, freedom and love
This paper is a poem…


Venice West Cafe

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Poetry Reading at Venice West Cafe 1960 - by Robert Huffstutter



Historical Venice OFW Homes Destined to Be Axed

February 1, 2015

By Pegarty Long

Two of Venice’s oldest houses are about to make way for a new mixed-use project which will include a fine dining glass-enclosed restaurant and two apartments on the building’s second level.
The now boarded-up homes are located at 811-815 Ocean Front Walk (OFW). They were built circa 1905 and represent two of the few remaining original houses on Venice’s OFW. The owners of the property, Vera and Gary Sutter, have submitted an application to the city for a “new mixed-use project consisting of two residential units and a ground floor restaurant with full alcohol bar.” There will be subterranean parking with mechanical lifts and tandem parking with parking attendant.
The owners say that the project fully complies with the Venice Coastal Zone Specific Plan.
A community meeting, hosted by the architect, John Reed, was held on January 19 to present the plans and renderings for the project.
Long-time residents from the surrounding area attended. A large percentage of the attendees were from Park Avenue, the Venice street which will be most affected by the project.
The plan is for two residential apartments, a fine dining restaurant that will seat 100 and a bar in the back that will seat 16. Hours of operation will be Sunday to Thursday 8am to midnight and Friday and Saturday 9am to 1am. There will be 28 underground parking spaces for the patrons and the building’s residents. No spaces will be allotted for surrounding Venice residents. It will take about 14 to 16 months before construction can begin, given the many applications that must be submitted, and 14  more months of construction, according to Reed.
The chief concerns of the residents were backed up traffic, pollution from the traffic, and noise by the comings and goings of the patrons in the late restaurant hours.
Their small alley, Park Court and surrounding Speedway, a one-way alley, would be the only routes to the restaurant, and street parking in the area is scant.They did not think that 28 parking spaces could accommodate two apartments and a dining room of 100 seats plus 16 in the bar. Reed countered that there would be layered and elevator parking plus valet and that that would help. The residents believe that  would cause backed-up traffic on both Park and Speedway while the cars are being parked. Reed countered that they expect much walk-in business from the people on the Ocean Front Walk. Residents emphatically did not think so. They thought that people on the Ocean Front Walk generally are there for sun and fun and not for fine dining, nor would they be properly dressed for it. They also reminded Reed of the midnight curfew on Ocean Front Walk. Reed responded that the patrons would be asked to leave from the back area during the curfew hours.
Residents also raised the question that those patrons who want fine dining with open bay windows overlooking Ocean Front Walk might find the Ocean Front Walk scene offensive, sometimes even repulsive, and not conducive to fine dining. Reed said he lives in Venice and he knew what the scene was, and didn’t think that would be a problem because the bay windows of the restaurant could be opened or closed.
Residents brought up  the transients in the area and the many who sleep around Park Avenue at night. Reed answered that the owners of the property and he had been in contact with “Mike” (Councilman Mike Bonin) about this and that they were assured by Bonin that he was working on the the problem and it is being resolved.
On the issue of excessive noise, besides the comings and goings of traffic and people from 8am until 12 midnight or 1am each day of the week, Reed was made aware that on Ocean Front Walk musicians are drawn to playing in front of restaurants and other eating places and disturb residents by playing loudly and frequently, often with bongos. These musicians would attempt to get restaurant patrons’ attention and money. The residents were assured by Reed that the building will block any noise because of its sheer size.
Reacting negatively to these statements, the residents also voiced their concerns about the underground water problems that arise when digging deeply into the ground for the underground parking in this area of Venice. They advised the architect to seek consultation with the builders of Thornton Lofts, a large condominium with underground parking a few blocks away. That project was stalled for over a year and went over the estimated budget because of the water that surfaced while digging. Venice, which is located right by the ocean, was built on landfill. (As many seasoned Venetians know, when founder Abbot Kinney flipped that coin in the air and won the toss to choose which of two large areas of real estate to build on, he famously chose what seemed to be the least desirable for his dream of a Venice of America… a swamp.)
When Reed was asked why he did not design a building which would incorporate the existing historical buildings in his design he answered, “this is what the owners want”.
At the end of the meeting Reed thanked all for expressing their concerns.
The project will be presented to the Venice Neighborhood Council  land use and planning committee. Time and place can be confirmed at:

Pegarty Long

The Politics of Painting Pagodas

February 1, 2015

By Krista Schwimmer
There are many features on Ocean Front Walk that define its essence. Among the most noteworthy are the pagodas or pergolas, as they were first called. Clustered together like mini palm trees, these free structures welcome all against the elements. As a result, a variety of people congregate in and around them: tourists, locals, and unhoused community members.
Like many parts of Venice, these pagodas have appeared in Hollywood films. Two films from Jeffrey Stanton’s research are “Falcon and the Snowman,” starring Sean Penn and Timothy Hutton; and “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” starring Nick Nolte, Bette Midler, and Richard Dreyfuss. In the latter movie, Nolte’s character is a bum. He and his homeless pals meet at the pagoda at Dudley Street and sing, “We are the bums! We are the homeless!” More recently, these same pagodas w


ere the stars in the monthly Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) meeting held Tuesday, January 20.
On that night, Melissa Diner, Chair of the Ocean Front Walk (OFW) Committee, presented a “Pagoda Beautification” motion. The motion recommended that VNC support the “formation of an ‘Adopt-A- Pagoda” project and adjacent benches project.” Approved local artists would take a pagoda, its mini wall, bench, and trashcan, and redo it. One of the eight pagodas on Sunset Avenue, however, would be a permanent installation dedicated to Alicia Gruppioni.
What followed next was a sometimes volatile, often confusing, and even comical discussion generated by series of motions to amend and to reconsider what was just amended. In total, it took two new motions to amend and one to reconsider a previous amendment to bring the original motion to a vote.
Who would have thought innocent pagodas could pull such a punch?

It all began when Amanda Seward stood up to make a public comment. Amanda Seward is a well- known attorney who helped the Lincoln Place tenants successfully fight Aimco. She is also an avid lover of modern architect.
She began by saying that she was the person who had contacted Melissa that day about the historical nature of the pagodas. This statement directly contradicted one made earlier by Shelly Gomez, a member of the OFW Committee. After first calling the pagodas ugly, Shelly stated that she had checked with the historic society and found out they were not historic. Gomez finished her comment by saying that color and sound are vibration. “So, those pagodas, if they are colorful, it’s going to raise the vibration of that place. It will deter people from camping out.”
Amanda said the pagodas were designed by Gregory Ain, a very import ant, modern architect, particularly in the Los Angeles area. “They are not designated,” Seward continued,”but there are a lot of things in LA that are historic that are not yet designated.” In Ain’s case, however, there are other buildings he designed that are designated. One example Seward brought up is the Mar Vista Tract, consisting of 52 parcels designed by Ain. According to the Office of Historic Resources’ website, these one-story, single family homes built in 1948, were “shaped by the Fair Housing Administration’s desire to promote home ownership among modest-income families.” The Mar Vista Tract was also the city’s first post World War II Historic Preservation Overlay Zone.

As to the current color of the pagodas, according to Seward, this was carefully considered by the architect. “All I’m saying is that before you paint the pagodas, you need to look at that a little more carefully … that should be considered in the design aspect and I don’t think it was, because no one knew.”
The Venice Heritage Museum’s (VHM) website also has a brief history of the pagodas. According to them, the original ones were hand-tooled and elegant, with benches to sit under. They were believed to have been created as part of the Work Projects Administration Program that existed from 1935-1943. The older, Jewish population who frequented Ocean Front Walk in the days of yore really enjoyed them. In 2000, they were refurbished, with the benches being removed, but the overall pagoda structure maintained.
Melissa Diner, who had made the original motion, was agreeable to Seward’s suggestions. And so, a first amendment was formed that stated the project follow the guidelines of the secretary of interior design on rehabilitation of historic buildings. This amendment passed readily 15-0-3.
But the pagodas were only just getting started! Or maybe it was the revenge of the pigeons and other seafaring birds, discouraged from landing on the pagodas by reflectors added in 2014.
The next motion to amend was made by Community Officer Mike Bravo. He suggested that rather than have one, permanent memorial pagoda to Alicia Gruppioni, that one pagoda be a revolving memorial pagoda that would include other Venice residents. This second amendment carried as well with a vote of 8-4-5.
Death often comes in threes. Evidently, VNC amendments do, too.
The third, and final motion, however, to amend was the most confusing and controversial motion. Vice President Mark Salzberg asked if the board members could remove Bravo’s amendment, on the grounds that Board members did not get a chance to talk about whether there should be any dedication at all. According to the parliamentary, a motion could be made by someone on the prevailing side to reconsider the amendment only.
At this point, the public was roused somewhat; but President Mike Newhouse, aka the Dictator of Time, even more so. He wrongly chastised two women in the back for speaking when they were not. Then, he went on to threaten to adjourn the whole meeting, saying, “Folks are not up here to waste their time.” Newhouse next said there was a lot of time wasting coming from both sides. Considering that public comment was still only one minute, and that there was very little that night, one wonders just how the public was wasting the Board’s time. Telepathically?
To succeed, this third motion to reconsider a previous amendment needed a 2/3rds vote. It failed, 11-5-2, by one vote.
Finally, the entire motion to “Adopt-A-Pagoda” along with two amendments – one to follow guidelines on historical, restoration and the other to create a single, revolving, memorial pagoda – won easily by 14-2-2.
At first thought, one wonders why the idea of beautifying the pagodas on Ocean Front Walk created such heated discussion. They are, however, a perfect mirror of the battle going on here in Venice, a battle that skirts around the real issues of homelessness troubling our community.
In her public comment, Shelly Gomez spoke about how Salt Lake City, Utah is solving their homelessness by housing them. Later, however, she contradicted herself, saying that by painting the pagodas a bright color, it would deter people from camping there. Since she is part of the OFW committee who came up with the beautification project, what then is the real reason for wanting to paint the pagodas? To repel those deemed unfit for Ocean Front Walk?
In a strange twist of irony, the architect who designed these structures, Gregory Ain, was “best known for bringing elements of modern architect to lower-and-medium cost housing.”(wikipedia)
Whatever the intention of the OFW committee, if it was not for the presence and the persuasion of Amanda Seward, we in Venice would have lost the chance to understand and preserve a part of Venice that is both interesting and educational. As Amanda said in her first comment, “When you have great art, you don’t paint over it.”New pagodas

pagoda people

The “Cleaning Up” of Venice

November 1, 2014

By Deborah Lashever

If we wish to honestly “clean up” Venice we need an expanded storage program, an adequate number of trash cans and 24/7 bathrooms. The current city program of criminalizing unhoused people does not solve anything and wastes hundreds of thousands of dollars. “Cleaning up” cannot and should not equal criminalization. That is discrimination, and is illegal. The act of being without housing is not a crime.

If citizens are bothered by piles of belongings, trash or refuse, the solution is to demand adequate Venice storage facilities, trash cans and 24/7 bathrooms when and where they are needed. That would actually solve these problems. The clean-up “sweeps” on OFW will not fix them. Neither will police. These are basic human concerns and they have obvious, basic solutions. Criminalization of situations people cannot help – like urination in alleys when there are no bathrooms, or having stuff on the sidewalk when there is no storage – can never solve these problems.

The Council office admits that each clean-up “sweep” on Ocean Front Walk costs a minimum of $7500. One a month comes to $90,000 a year. In September the city conducted essentially four. That’s $30,000 for just one month. If this trend continues the city will spend $360,000 per year on something that must be repeated ad infinitum. This program obviously does not work and, in addition, too easily violates people’s civil rights so the city, rightfully, keeps getting sued, wasting more hundreds of thousands of dollars that could obviously be better spent.

Councilman Mike Bonin is the only person every official is looking at to resolve the issues in Venice. He needs input from compassionate Venetians and support for real solutions – not to criminalize people who are down on their luck – but to spend our resources on getting them the help they need to get their issues addressed so they can get off the street.

If we had an expanded storage program and adequate public hygiene, like they do in other communities, like Costa Mesa, Bonin could accomplish his goal of “cleaning up Venice” without being punitive or harassing vulnerable people. He could actually help them. He could help all of us! It would cost the city far less and be a huge win/win for Venice.

Costa Mesa has a low cost program that includes adequate full time storage, bathrooms, trash cans, and once a week mobile showers/washing machines for unhoused people. Workers and volunteers interface with unhoused clients daily, building trust and connecting them with services. They have had wonderful success. Residents, businesses, law enforcement and civic leaders are extremely pleased. The community has been transformed! Unhoused people are clean with clean clothes and only a day pack, just like any other community member. They are free to access services to help procure employment, housing, counseling and health services. And they do.

People regain their dignity. The entire community benefits. And it costs pennies compared to what we are now spending on punitive and barbaric measures that help no one and must be repeated forever.

Why not try? Bonin has been made aware of this inclusive program but has not seen fit to implement one yet. He needs to feel public support because he evidently does not believe that Venice is still a community of Heart – not only money – and that Venetians will overwhelmingly support compassionate solutions. Tell him.

The bottom line is that unhoused people in Venice are not being assisted, but instead are being summarily discriminated against, marginalized, maligned, and penalized for things they cannot help. They have no bathrooms much of the night yet get harassed for ‘going’ in alleys or yards. They aren’t allowed adequate storage but are subject to having their only belongings confiscated and thrown out by the city. They have no dwellings so must sleep outside, where they are constantly harassed by irate citizens and police, and ticketed/arrested, with the city ever seeking to put in more laws against them. The city can insist that people get off the sidewalks all they want. The problem is they have nowhere else to go.

The money is available to help at least with basic needs until we can figure out housing. Bonin has been given $500,000 specifically for homeless issues in Venice. That is over and above the $5,000,000 Los Angeles has been given through the Operation Healthy Streets program. If we are to have actual solutions, Bonin needs to understand that Venetians will politically support him only if he implements positive, win/win solutions for everyone in Venice and stops the criminalization process..

Please watch this short video on the Free Storage Venice program. Besides housing, of course, this program is a healthy chunk of what we need to start really solving the immediate issues in our community:

Fighting OFW sweeps


Above: Fighting Ocean Front Walk Sweeps
venicesweep2Above: One of the many $7,500 useless Ocean Front Walk sweeps

The Art Tiles of Venice Beach: a Graphic History, 1904-2001 Latest Book Acquisition by the Venice Library Book Signing Celebration November 15, 3-5:30pm

November 1, 2014

By Kay Brown

What do a local actor, artists, teacher and councilmember have in common? They have all read and recommend our reading of the “Art Tiles at Venice Beach – a Graphic History: 1904 – 2001.”
The book magnifies the public art tiles that represent scenes from the history of Venice, 1904 to 2001. Each tile bears the name of the street on which it is located and has the date of its scene at the top of the design, which was inspired by historic and modern photographs, drawings, memory, and imagination. They consist of a suite of 22 handmade ceramic tiles, 12 inches wide by 13 inches high, constructed of high fired clay and glazes. The tiles are inlaid into the concrete ends of each of the eleven benches on the Ocean Front Walk from Horizon Ave. to Dudley Ave., and are located where the streets end at Ocean Front Walk.
The benches are deteriorating and are being removed and destroyed by the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. The Venice Arts Council Endangered Art Fund is working to protect and rescue these tiles and the benches that house them.
Published by the Helicon Nine Press and the Venice Arts Council, all donated proceeds are used to rescue and protect these tiles.
What is not evident is the back story on the tiles themselves. A nude beach in Venice? See page 32 on the Park Avenue bench. Oil wells in Venice? See page 18 on the Clubhouse Avenue tile. Blackouts during WWII? See page 22 on Wavecrest Avenue caption. As a matter of fact, these little captions serve as a teaser for all of Venice history and invite the readers to refresh their history buff butts into our local bookstores and libraries to bone up on what we’ve been wondering about!
What do you know about Venice?
As actor Matt Malloy is quoted on the back of the book, “Want to love Venice even more than you do now?”
You can see the book at the Venice Library, where a book signing will take place at the Venice-Abbott Kinney Library, 501 South Venice Blvd., on Saturday, November 15, from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served.
Venice Art Tiles

Above: The Venice Arts Council donates its newly published book “The Art Tiles of
Venice Beach: a Graphic History 1904 – 2001” to the Venice Library Senior Librarian and Branch Manager, Dr. Rachel Bindman.
“This book showcases the historical development and diversity of Venice.We are pleased to include it in our library collection.” – Dr. Bindman
Photo by: Regina Barton

Watch Out: Cameras Are Recording You; Bollards Won’t Save You

October 1, 2014

By Greta Cobar

A lifeguard driving an L.A. County truck accidentally ran over a sunbather on September 15 at 4:25 pm near the intersection of Ocean Front Walk and Venice Blvd. Twenty-five year old Loraine Bermudez of Whittier suffered fractures and internal injuries, and was immediately transported to a hospital. Her injuries are not life-threatening.
The lifeguard stopped immediately after the accident, rendered help to Bermudez, and called for help. He had responded to a call about swimmers getting too close to the rocks just North of the Venice pier. Mass media initially reported that the accident happened while the lifeguard was driving towards the rocks, with his lights and sirens on. However, he struck her while he was driving away from the rocks, without lights or sirens.
The accident happened while Bermudez’s husband was in the ocean.
Just this past May a 49 year old woman was run over by a sanitation truck while sunbathing on the beach here in Venice.
The September 2013 Beachhead article titled “Increase Safety by Banning Police Cars on OFW” addressed the issue of danger from being run over by police and lifeguard vehicles ( Both the recent and the May accidents are truly unfortunate. The fact is that there are way too many vehicles going way too fast on the sand and on OFW at almost all times. They all need to slow way down and reduce over-all traffic in general.
Is Mike Bonin, our City Councilperson, now planning on installing bollards all over the sand?
Following the August 3, 2013 death of Alice Gruppioni, who was run over by a mad man driving down OFW, Bonin ordered plastic bollards that fold to the ground when any car touches them to be installed all over OFW. In no time they became an eye-sore and a big tripping hazard. Bonin replaced them in April ( and they again became nothing but an eyesore and we ended up with even more tripping hazards. At Rose and OFW they were just replaced once again in September. How much did all of this cost?
At the October 29, 2013 Town Hall meeting the Venice community vehemently and overwhelmingly spoke against bollards and cameras on OFW ( Bonin requested the meeting and attended the first three quarters of it, but not with the goal of catering to the wishes of the community, like he’s supposed to. His motion before City Council to install cameras on OFW was introduced in August 2013, three months prior to the Town Hall (
Twenty new LAPD surveillance cameras are about to be installed on OFW and be monitored by officers at the Pacific Division’s Venice Beach Substation. Our City Councilperson is filling the post of our usual politician: using fear and safety pretenses to invade our privacy. Through increased government control Bonin is pretending to care about our safety while catering to Big Brother.
Public safety from government vehicles is not being addressed in spite of two women being run over in the past five months. But because a mad man drove on the sidewalk off Dudley St. in order to get around the permanent metal bollards that have been on Dudley and OFW for many years, we are going to be subjected to constant police surveillance in what truly has become a police state. Never mind that the cameras would not have prevented the mad man from doing what he did.
On August 1, during the First Friday madness on Abbot Kinney Blvd., a deep-fat fryer caught fire inside the Miami Nights food truck and ripped through the roof, rising four feet above the vehicle. The food truck was located at Abbot Kinney and Andalusia. Luck had it that it was only 7:12 pm, and the crowds had not arrived yet. Fire-fighting vehicles were able to reach the food truck and extinguish the flames before the propane tanks inside caught on fire. Had it been between 8 and 9 pm, the streets would have been grid-locked with vehicles, sidewalks would have been over-spilling with pedestrians, and food trucks would have been parked back-to-back up and down the street. Imagine the danger of that situation.
Bonin did not care to address that situation at all. However, fast forward four hours later, to 11 pm on August 1, and you could have found Bonin and his new husband on OFW because they got word of a mattress on fire. So Bonin proceeded to help actually lift the mattress off the ground and put it in a hauling truck while at the same time calling the situation on OFW “apocalyptical”.
Never mind that the fire rose only five inches above the mattress, created damage less than a foot in diameter, and was extinguished in a matter of a few short minutes. And never mind that only a homeless hater would set a mattress on fire – let’s blame the homeless! And let’s cater to the yuppies on Abbot Kinney and pretend that they didn’t almost set the city of Venice on fire.
During the January Venice Neighborhood Council meeting Bonin told the audience of his intent to remove personal belongings off OFW and enumerated his obstacles, such as legislature stating that the city can remove “abandoned materials”, but not “unattended materials”; that things have to be tagged before being removed; and that everything removed has to be stored by the city for 90 days before being discarded.
Fast forward to September 12, 2 am to 4 am on OFW, when an un-announced sweep took place that removed things without tagging anything. People sleeping on the side-streets off OFW wanted to go and grab their belongings before the things were taken away, but LAPD threatened them with arrest for violating the illegal curfew selectively enforced on OFW between midnight and 5 am.
A note was left stating that all items picked up were taken to the Temple St. warehouse.
Rachel Gomez, Ibrahim Butler’s partner, called the Temple St. warehouse to inquire about Ibrahim’s “Welcome to Venice” sign, one of the items confiscated September 12. The sign had been a fixture on OFW for two years, greeting visitors and providing photo-ops. It was recently featured in two movies, Ride and Undateable John.
“When I called the Temple St. warehouse, I was told that the item wasn’t there,” Gomez told the Beachhead.
It is our fault for allowing our elected officials to put us under surveillance 24 hours a day behind fabricated fear factors while the real dangers that our own government poses to us are shoved under some homeless person’s mattress.
I’m not even gonna go into advising you to contact Bonin or to elect somebody else. The fact is that the more disappointed we are with our elected officials and our government as a whole, the closer we are to a true People’s Revolution. So the less they appease us, the less time we’re gonna allow them to rule over us and destroy all of us in the process. Viva la Revolucion!
Who Pays for the Pigs?

Big Brother is here!
Cameras everywhere
Cops see your underwear!
Pigs have eyes on the Ocean Front Walk
The ones of the Parks & Rec. even talk!
Cops have 20 new cameras to see your zits
Your gal doing the splits
And your wife’s tits!
Monitoring in real time
Looking for bikinis, butts and crime.
We’re all taped for them to see
If you fart, belch or pee!
Pick your nose and scratch your ass
Pull up your pants or fondle your lass.
They’ll see you talk to Joe Smoe or Bob the Bum
A movie star or some gutter scum.
Everywhere you go
They will know
If you smoke, do coke
Or take a pill for some ill.
Killers, thieves, rapists they’ll lock up in jail
Also homeless, nuts and hippies without fail –
And just try and get bail!
They’ll record vendors, tourists and stores
Musicians, artists, poets and whores.
They’ll see what you eat
Who you greet
Who has big feet
And dogs in heat!
Police watch all day
The poor and minorities will pay.
Peek a boo
I see you!
It’s true, pigs ain’t got a clue
What you do
But they’ll beat you black & blue!
Helicopters and drones fly by
Pigs spy, so say hi
Before you die! My, oh my!
Now nothing will escape Big Brother’s eye
So we can say to freedom and privacy – Bye, Bye!!!

– Moishe Pupik


 Above: new, useless bollards just installed at Rose and OFW


Above: Bollards and broken bollards that are nothing but an eye-sore and tripping hazard


Above: Food truck on fire, Friday, August 1, Abbot Kinney Blvd.

Welcome to VeniceAbove: Ibrahim’s artwork, confiscated and discarded by the LAPD September 12

We Could Have Danced All Night

October 1, 2014

By Marty Liboff

After Abbot Kinney opened his amazing Venice of America in 1905 with beautiful Italian Renaissance style buildings and miles of canals, he dreamed of bringing fine culture to L.A. He built an auditorium on his new pier at Windward Ave. and planned fine arts with opera, classical music and Shakespeare. He managed to get the lady once called the greatest actress of all time, Sarah Bernhardt, to come in 1906 to play Tosca and parts from other plays. She parked her private rail car on the pier and every night had dinner with Abbot. It was rumored that the sometimes cross dressing Sarah had an affair with the married Abbot Kinney!
Although her engagement was a success, it soon became quite apparent that the idea of fine culture for most people in L.A. was bars, gambling, amusement park rides, bathing beauties, and dance halls. Kinney then built a giant dance hall near the auditorium. In the next few years, several dance halls were built in Venice and Ocean Park. Venice had the Venice Ballroom and the Sunset Ballroom. On the Ocean Park pier, that started in Venice at Navy street, there came to be several dance halls or ballrooms. On the Santa Monica pier the great La Monica Ballroom was later built.
It is hard to imagine today, but before TV, computers and iphones, many people would go ballroom dancing for entertainment. Visitors would come down here to the beach to gamble, swim, dance and go to several huge bath houses. Across from the Ocean Park pier was the grand Palace Dance Hall. On the Ocean Park pier was the Casino Gardens Ballroom where the jazz great Tommy Dorsey played. There was also the amazing Egyptian Ballroom with ancient Egyptian statues and paintings. On the south side of the pier at Navy street in Venice was the Bon Ton Ballroom. This ballroom had several names during its day, and was the last of the great old ballrooms on our Ocean Front to close. The Bon Ton, or Aragon Ballroom, is the one I remember.
The Bon Ton Ballroom was opened in 1922 on the south side of the Ocean Park pier in Venice. The south side of the pier in Venice was sometimes called the Lick Pier. In 1924, a massive fire consumed the entire pier. The pier was quickly rebuilt with a new Bon Ton Ballroom. In 1942 it was renamed the Aragon Ballroom after a famous club back east. Many great old jazz bands played at the Aragon Ballroom on the pier in Venice. In the 1940s, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey with Frank Sinatra, and Harry James and his band played at the Aragon. During World War Two, the ballrooms were filled all the time by workers from Douglas Aircraft and locals who needed a break from the war. The Douglas Aircraft Company was next to the Santa Monica Airport on Ocean Park Blvd. In 1950, Kirk Douglas shot part of his movie”Young Man With A Horn” in the Aragon Ballroom.
After the war, business was down on the piers. In 1946 the city of L.A. decided they didn’t want the Venice pier anymore and they ended the lease. Sadly, in 1947 the wonderful Venice pier was demolished with its dance halls, auditorium, rides and the Venice movie theater. The Ocean Park pier didn’t have the competition anymore and did better.
In the mid 1940s, the self named King of Country Swing Music, Spade Cooley played at the Venice Ballroom, and for a time at the Aragon. In the late 1940s he moved to the large La Monica Ballroom on the Santa Monica pier. He became a giant sensation when he went on TV. When I was a child we’d always tune in on TV and watch Spade play his country fiddle, or “fidoodlin”. He was a big star until, while drunk, he horribly beat and killed his wife Ella Mae. He called her “the purtiest little filly in California!”. He wrote a love song to her called,”Spadella”. In one of his drunken rages, he imagined she was having an affair with the famous movie star, the King of the Cowboys, Roy Rogers! Spade was convicted in a sensational trial. It was as big news at the time as the O.J. Simpson trial was! One of Spade’s big hit songs was, “Shame On You!”.
In 1951, Lawrence Welk and his “Champagne Music Orchestra” took over at the Aragon Ballroom. He also went on TV and became a great success. Ballroom dancers packed the dance floor as Lawrence played polka and pop hits on his accordion and led his big band with a, “anda one, anda two…”. He had a bubble machine blowing bubbles like champagne. Many musicians and singers became famous on his show. When I was a kid, I was in love with the lovely young Lennon Sisters who sang on the show. They became huge stars. Welk’s son discovered them while attending Venice High School with the older sisters. A couple of the Lennon brothers also played music later in the local rock band called ‘Venice’.
Occasionally the Aragon Ballroom had special events. In the early 1960s with the anti-communist madness going on in America, there were anti-commie rallies held there.
In 1958 the Ocean Park Pier was transformed into a fantastic ocean themed amusement pier called Pacific Ocean Park (P.O.P.). Lawrence Welk continued with his orchestra on TV in the Aragon Ballroom at P.O.P. until he moved to Hollywood in 1961. For a short time the big band leader Freddy Martin took over at the Aragon. However, the days of the old big bands was coming to a close. Pacific Ocean Park already had success with that crazy new music called rock & roll. The Aragon Ballroom would soon rise again, reincarnated into one of the greatest rock and roll clubs of all time… I’ll tell you about it next month…
(For more history read: Venice California: ‘Coney Island of the Pacific’ by Jeffrey Stanton and Pacific Ocean Park by Christopher Merritt and Domenic Priore).

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